It had been a while since the Whetstone High School wrestling team celebrated a City League championship.
Thirty-eight years, to be exact.
Despite not winning any individual titles, the Braves ended their long drought, scoring 177 points in the 16-team City tournament Feb. 8 at Briggs to edge runner-up Centennial (164.5) to win their first league championship since 1976.
Mifflin (157.5) was third, followed by Brookhaven (154), Walnut Ridge (142), Marion-Franklin (110), Columbus West (88), Northland (71.5), Columbus South (58), Independence (45), Briggs (38), Africentric (37), Beechcroft (30), Eastmoor Academy (29), Linden-McKinley (29) and Columbus East (22.5).
"I'm still in shock," seventh-year coach Tom Jones said. "It feels great to get the monkey off my back. We've wanted to end this drought for a long time. We've been close. My first year as coach, we were half of a point short of winning it."
Whetstone placed in the top five in 11 of the 14 weight classes. That includes four runners-up in Chris North (160 pounds), Christian Bobo (170), Demetrius Burrell (195) and Zack Arnold (220).
"Although we went 0-4 in finals, we had others step up and wrestle above (their) seeds," Jones said. "Guys like Burrell and Arnold really came through. Burrell was seeded fourth and reached a final and Arnold also surprised us with a second place. Both of those guys also wrestled up a weight."
Burrell lost to Eastmoor's Gavin Grace-Giles 17-15 in the final. In the other finals involving the Braves, Bobo lost to Mifflin's Hannibal Tate 11-6, North lost to Mifflin's Montrese Frazier 22-7 and Arnold was pinned in 51 seconds by Brookhaven's Steven Pelletier.
"I stayed with the game plan and was the aggressor," Burrell said. "We've been talking about this all year. We wanted to have a full lineup and have everybody place. Those were the goals. We had a full lineup and we placed in all but three of the weights.
"Coach has talked to us about this (moment) all year and it's a great feeling. We're still celebrating."
Placing third were Justin Rodriguez (106) and Edison Ramirez (138). Kevon Burton (126) and Ricky Bowmen (152) both finished fourth and Nate Perry (113), Ethan Johnson (182) and Demetrius Wade (heavyweight) each placed fifth.
"If I had a choice to have some individual champions or to be team champion with no individual champions, I would choose team every time," Jones said. "It shows we have some depth, and it helps a program grow and builds tradition and it gives something for our guys to shoot for in future seasons."
The Braves will compete in the 11-team Division I sectional Saturday, Feb. 15, at Upper Arlington.
The field also includes the host Golden Bears, Briggs, Grove City, Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Davidson, New Albany, Olentangy Orange, Thomas Worthington, West and Westerville North.
The top four placers in each weight class advance to the district tournament Feb. 21 and 22 at Hilliard Darby.
The Braves did not have any district qualifiers last season.
Girls basketball team getting set for Rangers
The girls basketball team, which has secured its first winning season since 1988-89, will play host to 29th-seeded Hamilton Township in the first round of the Division I district tournament Saturday, Feb. 15.
The Braves, who are seeded 26th of 47 teams in the district, did not play the Rangers during the regular season. The winner plays at fourth-seeded Northland in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 19, with the winner of that contest advancing to a district semifinal Feb. 27 at Jonathan Alder.
Whetstone is 13-7 overall and finished 8-6 in the City-North. Hamilton Township improved to 12-8 with a 52-45 win over Bloom-Carroll on Feb. 7.
"It's been a pretty sweet season," said senior guard Kalie Mascarello, who scored 17 points in a 56-34 win over Columbus International on Feb. 4 in the Braves' league finale. "I think this is the first time we've ever played a home (district) tournament game and we went from being seeded 44th (of 47) teams last year to being seeded 26th. That's a big jump in one year."
The Braves had been scheduled to play DeSales on Feb. 7, but the contest was canceled because of bad weather.
"We really wanted to resched-ule, but DeSales didn't, so (coach Bucky Walters) is looking to see if we can find another game or at least get a scrimmage set up," Mascarello said.
Colleen Kelly added 16 points against International and Liz Khoury scored 12.
Struggles continue for boys basketball team
The boys basketball team was looking to snap a nine-game losing streak when it played Beechcroft on Feb. 10.
Whetstone, which played Tree of Life on Feb. 11, will play host to Briggs on Friday, Feb. 14, before closing the regular season at home against Independence on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
The Braves then will prepare to play at top-seeded Northland in the first round of the Division I district tournament Feb. 21, with the winner playing host to 45th-seeded Hamilton Township in the second round Feb. 26.
Whetstone is seeded 44th of 45 teams in the district.
The Braves lost to Columbus International 69-51 on Feb. 4 to fall to 2-15 overall and finish 1-13 in the City-North. Their lone league win came against International, 51-45 on Dec. 13.
Aaron Adair had 16 points to lead Whetstone in the rematch with the Lions.
Bowling teams finish with winning records
The boys bowling team finished 8-6 overall and in the 15-team Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-Central, and the girls team went 9-3 overall and in the 13-team COHSBC-Central to tie Hartley and DeSales for third behind Ready, which entered the week 11-0, and Northland, which entered the week 10-1.
The boys and girls teams are preparing for the Division I sectional Feb. 21 at Eastland Lanes.
Relays reach district for boys swim team
Even though the boys swimming and diving team had no individual district qualifiers and the girls team produced no district qualifiers, coach John DeRing was pleased with the effort turned in by his squads in the 13-team Division I sectional Feb. 8 at Upper Arlington.
"The boys team had tons of season-best swims and the girls team was shorthanded because three girls were taking the ACT and another was competing in a state Lego competition," DeRing said. "Plus, none of the City League teams got any practice in the last three days of the week because the schools were closed (because of bad weather). When you're competing against mostly OCC teams, you need every practice you can get."
The boys team qualified all three relays to the district meet Saturday, Feb. 15, at Ohio State.
At sectional, Connor Flanagan, David Basye, Bert Pajor and Mitchell Nottage combined to finish eighth in the 200-yard medley relay in 1 minute, 53.4 seconds and ninth in the 200 freestyle relay (1:43.45).
The 400 free relay of Sam Green-Lauber, Drew Marcum, Luke Green-Lauber and Jose Soto also finished ninth (4:15.88).
The Braves scored 24 points to place ninth of 13 teams as St. Charles (340) won.
At district, the top two finishers in each swimming event automatically advance to state Feb. 20-22 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
In addition, 16 at-large berths will be awarded in each swimming event based on times statewide.
The boys team placed in the top 15 in three individual events at sectional, with Flanagan finishing 14th in the 100 backstroke (1:04.27) and Pajor finishing 15th in both the 200 free (1:59.05) and 100 butterfly (59.5).
"We had our best swims across the board, including Pajor, Bayse, Soto, Luke Woodward, Luke Green-Lauber, Marcum, Evan Myers and Ray Zeliadt," DeRing said. "The girls relays were gutted by the ACT and other things, but Ellie Downie, Karina Spulgis, Kelli Chin, Alice Pajor, Natalie Hunt, Abby Falor and Hailey Cannaday swam well."
The girls team scored eight points at sectional to finish 12th behind champion UA (494).